Tag Archives: Presidential Rally

President Trump Draws Overflow Crowd in Final Push for the Mitten State

Thousands huddled in freezing rain at Lansing’s Capital Region International Airport from the early hours of Tuesday morning to well into the afternoon. Pulling into the airport, one may have been forgiven for thinking they were arriving at a Big Ten tailgate party. Despite the frigid temperatures and wet conditions, attendees made the long walk from the parking lot to the security line with a pep that didn’t match the weather. They carried blankets, donned stocking caps and perhaps surprisingly, a majority wore masks.

The crowd filed in through rigorous security and temperature checks for hours and eventually filled the event space to capacity and overflowed into the streets and parking lots on both sides of the hangar apron. The feeling that one was at a sporting event continued once inside the gates, as Trump regalia and vendors were as abundant as team gear at a football game, displaying that Trump has managed to carry over his branding expertise to a realm that has seldom been seen as “cool.” It was impossible to wonder, how much of the Trump brand will stick as the GOP prepares for a post-Trump era in the coming months or years. It was undeniably a Trump rally, rather than a Republican event and the crowd seemed to match. Scores of young people, UAW members, racial minorities and all other demographics of the American landscape were in abundance like no Republican event would have expected before Trump.

Supporters flooded into the seats, carrying hot cocoa, pizzas and other concessions before being met by a wall of sound streaming from the fingers of Detroit rock legend, Ted Nugent. Nugent shredded out a walloping Star Spangled Banner, before giving older folks in the crowd a taste of nostalgia with the opening riff of his hit song, Stranglehold. Chants of “Four More Years” & “USA” broke out throughout the morning and on one occasion, several rounds of the Wave went around the packed crowd.


When we covered the Bernie Sanders rally in Grand Rapids on a clear spring day just as Covid began spreading across Michigan, we remarked how young the crowd was with some 80% being 30-something or below and the rest seeming to fall well into the retiree category with very few between the two demographics. Yesterday, we were again surprised to see just how many young people braved miserable elements to attend a political rally, though describing it as such seems to be a diminishing misnomer for the atmosphere present on Tuesday. Tuesday’s crowd appeared very evenly distributed across all ages and both men & women. Perhaps the most surprising element of the day was just how energetic the crowd was and how widely distributed the ages of attendees were on Tuesday. We have covered scores of Republican conferences, conventions and other rallies over the years and none felt or looked like the gathering at the Capital Region International Airport.

As the attendees found their seats and settled in for the rough ride of rain and cold temperatures, they were greeted by election hopefuls Paul Junge, who is in a race against incumbent Rep. Elissa Slotkin, and John James, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Gary Peters.

Both candidates highlighted several areas they believe their opponents have broken promises, with Junge notably accusing Slotkin of reneging on a promise not to impeach the president if elected. Slotkin, Junge argued, folded under pressure from Democrat leadership to impeach the president last January. Likewise, John James targeted Peters’ claims to be a defender of the Great Lakes and clean drinking water, while he stated asian carp risk invading Lake Michigan and Flint pipes are still leaching lead. James also attacked Peters’ attendance record at committee hearings and meetings, as well as his voting history.

James ran previously against incumbent, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, but looks to be faring much stronger in 2020 as his name recognition and brand have been rising in recent years. His race with Peters is sure to be a telling one on the future direction of Michigan politics and give some insight to his political brand going forward.

The festivities hit a fever pitch as Air Force One arrived just behind the stage and Donald Trump rose up the stairs to cheers and cellphones recording his ascent as Lee Greenwood’s I’m Proud to be an American blasted from the loudspeakers. Trump, always the showman, clearly reveled in the moment and made a protracted entrance, more akin to the WWE than a political rally, making his way to every part of the stage and addressing every corner of the audience with waves and fist pumps.

It did not take long for Trump to win over the rain soaked crowd, making jokes about the weather and his “people” asking if he’d like an umbrella or a hat, but telling the crowd he insisted on joining them in the elements as they had to wait longer than expected for his plane to arrive. Though two teleprompters framed either side of the podium, bearing the seal of the President of the United States, Trump’s remarks often felt more like riffing off bullet points from the screens. Trump covered various topics from his appointment and approval of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney-Barrett, economic success since 2016, trade deals with China & the USMCA and targeted several areas of disagreement with his opponent, Joe Biden.

The president also made sure to drop his signature line about the corrupt media that got boos from all in attendance before Trump called out to Fox News’ John Roberts and chuckled that Roberts has been fair. The comment drew wide swathes of the crowd to laugh, turn around and wave to Roberts. While Trump has attacked media that he believes has treated him unfairly, he has also found ways at doing so in a less aggressive way than in the past several years. It is also important to note that his campaign staff was very gracious to media in the crowd who had been in the elements since early in the morning, unsolicitedly giving out hand warmers and coffee to shivering reporters.

The president also made sure to target Biden on everything from allegedly corrupt dealings brought to attention in recent weeks by reporting in the New York Post, to flip-flopping multiple times on fracking and other fossil fuels abolishment, weakness towards China, Russia and North Korea, immigration policy and perhaps most effectively in regards to trade policy & social security/medicare; mirroring arguments and even playing tape of the Biden/Sanders Democrat Primary Debate. Trump seems willing to reach across the aisle to disaffected Sanders voters who feel the Democrat establishment pushed their candidate out of the race once again and even picked their preferred candidate to the one selected by voters in running Kamala Harris as VP. Harris was famously run out of the campaign before California even voted when fellow Democrat presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard, highlighted a series of blistering rebukes against the Senator. That moment was too much for Harris’ campaign to fend off, but a few months later, she was propped back up with a vice presidential selection by a Biden campaign that has already eluded to the fact she is the de facto candidate.

Trump waved to the crowd and boarded Air Force One to cap the day with two additional rallies in Wisconsin and Nebraska. Biden, conversely, called a lid on all in-person campaign and media events for the final ten days leading up to the election. Update: Biden has since announced he will be hitting the campaign trail once again and will campaign with Barack Obama in Michigan this Saturday.

Bernie Sanders Rally Draws 7,600+ to Calder Plaza in Grand Rapids

The Crowd

A sizable and energetic crowd gathered in Calder Plaza on Sunday afternoon for a “Get Out the Vote” event to rally with 2020 presidential democrat candidate Bernie Sanders. The crowd in the packed plaza looked a lot like Bernie’s support might be expected to based on turnouts around the country in 2016 and the 2020 race thus far: generally young and predominantly urban white. The vast majority of the crowd appeared to fall in the 30 & below demographic, unusual for a standard political gathering (we estimate a staggering 70% of those in attendance fell into this general age range), though Sanders has proven to be anything but the standard political figure.

There also seemed to be an additional smaller chunk of Sunday Sanders congregants hovering around the 50-60 year old demographic. While the vast majority of those in attendance were young white Michiganders (there was a decent contingent of minority support in the 7,600 attendees), polling and recent voting results were validated with most minority supporters falling into the 30 & below crowd.

The demographics in yesterday’s gathering should not go unnoticed. Bernie has connected with many who are just beginning their careers as well as those just beginning to wind them down and the crowd on Sunday afternoon reflected that very consistently. While his fellow democratic candidate, Joe Biden, has seen sweeping victories among older racial minorities – thanks in no small part to standing as Vice President for Barack Obama – Sanders has just as impressively and emphatically garnered support among the younger generation in those communities.

While the attendance breakdown on Sunday should hardly be surprising, as Sanders has routinely reached out directly to younger voters with calls to get engaged, the sheer turnout of so many young people for a political rally the morning after a Saturday night in the city was staggering.

“Bernie represents so many people that I feel he is our best choice.”

Of the dozen people we spoke to before events kicked off, only one had ever attended a political rally previously, a hopeful sign for Bernie’s prospects in Michigan’s primary this Tuesday. His repeated calls for a new generation of voters to get involved in the process have yet to materialize in the primaries in large enough numbers to swing results his way thus far, a realization he made in a recent interview. However, yesterday’s rally shows that there are some signs that a change in that trend may be coming his way in Michigan.

We spoke to two older Bernie supporters, Michelle & Daniel Benningfield, as the plaza began to fill about why they came to the rally and how they interpreted Sanders’ support among the younger generations.

Michelle was the only attendee we spoke with that had ever been to a political rally before Sunday. Michelle has seen Bernie speak before, but wanted to make it out to see him with the full momentum of the presidential primary underway. She explained why she supports Sanders, “I think Bernie is the best person to help lots of people,” explaining that his message reaches beyond the rich to the mass of everyday people that Sanders has argued are often overlooked by the political establishment. Daniel agreed, “Bernie represents so many people that I feel he is our best choice.”

Before interviewing some of the younger attendees in the growing crowd, we also asked them what they felt was at the root of so many young people turning out for a political rally on a weekend. Michelle said, “I think (young people) are sick of the status quo, like many people in my generation. It hasn’t change yet and now we’ve got a chance to change things. Vote for Bernie!” Daniel put it simply, “The change that needs to occur is what Bernie represents.”

“The environment is more open than if we went to a different type of rally.”

Those sentiments were validated when we headed off to interview other attendees making up the largest swath of the crowd: young people.

Shelby Denhof described what motivated her to attend her first political rally on Sunday and what she finds so appealing about Sanders, “I appreciate how Bernie amplifies the voices of underrepresented people in our communities.” She also appreciated Sanders’ direct appeals to young people, specifically in the realms of college tuition and student loan debt, as well as Sanders’ unique positions on US/Israel foreign policy.

Brothers, Gabe and Zach Stepanovich, each had their own reasons for attending as well. Gabe told us, “I think it’s just good to see all the political candidates,” while Zach specifically liked Bernie’s consistency in speaking to the issues of healthcare and economic justice in the United States over the course of his political career.

We asked another group of friends (last names withheld) what appeal Sanders had with them. Daniyelle told us that his policy of decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level and its impact on the current and future prison population was important to her. Emily doesn’t intend to go into education, but nonetheless found Sanders’ attention to the issue important. She explained that his calls for raising teacher salaries was one of the issues that most intrigued her about Bernie and thought it was necessary to reward the profession, which routinely covers classroom necessities out of pocket. Nile explained that she loved how passionate Sanders was about climate issues and most impressed by the way he has put his climate plans and strengthening of governmental agencies like the EPA at the forefront of his campaign.

We asked what inspired them to attend their first political rallies on Sunday. Daniyelle described her reasoning, “The environment is more open than if we went to a different type of rally.” Emily agreed, “The energy is a lot different and more accepting.” Finally, Nile chimed in, “Same. Accepting environment,” before adding, “but also something to do.” That sentiment should not be understated. The notion that a political rally is “something to do” for a young person is definitely a far different vision of passing the time than young people have had historically. However, it has been widely recognized that Sanders rallies often have the appeal and energy of a rock concert; something remarkable for the political scene and a 78 year old headliner.

“We are going to move the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour. We are going to have equal pay for equal work…We are going to make it easier for workers to join unions, not harder.”

March 8, Bernie Sanders in Grand Rapids.

Sanders has undoubtedly tapped into the youthful exuberance and passions of the younger generation and his rallies reflect that. When asked what had them coming out to attend a political rally on a weekend, the overwhelming and succinct initial answer of nearly every one we asked was nearly the same in almost every case: “Bernie Sanders!”

The Event

Things got kicked off with a rock concert in the less metaphorical sense as Grand Rapids punk rock band, Singing Lungs, took the stage. The band played the soundtrack to the steady march of attendees through security and into Calder Plaza. The crowd grooved along to the band’s traditional punk sound for around 20 minutes. Before playing their final song, the lead singer remarked “This song is called ‘Disappearing Act’ and we hope that’s what #44 (sic) is going to do!”

Next up to the stage was the Kalamazoo artist, Michigander. The band departed from the rougher punk sound of the opener and, instead, brought a more ethereal style reminiscent of an amalgamation of the bands U2 and Manchester Orchestra. Michigander played songs from their most recent EP and the crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy their sound. Both bands repeatedly reminded attendees to get out and vote on Tuesday in Michigan’s democratic primary.

After both bands wrapped up their sets and most of Calder Plaza had filled, opening speeches were given by a succession of various supporters, activists and political figures including, most notably, Jesse Jackson, who officially endorsed Sanders at the rally in Grand Rapids.

“In the richest country in the history of the world, we are not going to continue to have three billionaires owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society.”

March 8, Bernie Sanders in Grand Rapids.

After one speaker left the stage, an “Eat the Rich” chant broke out on the risers behind the podium and spread to significant portions of the crowd before staff rushed to quiet it. The chant marked one of only a few occasions that broke away from a largely positive afternoon, aside from the more typical criticisms and attacks on rich Americans, the pharmaceutical industry, health insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry, etc.

Campaign staff and volunteers were visibly frustrated and concerned that the chant would be picked up by opponents of the campaign or cast a shadow over the event as a whole in media coverage.

While certainly not the majority of Sanders’ supporters nationally or in attendance on Sunday, there has been concern about a worrisome segment of supporters that run in the more aggressive and radical lane of his various political positions. For some Sanders supporters, the political revolution is not (or should not be) as much about creating a system of fairness and reform, but levying derision and punishment on the guilty classes at the heart of Sanders’ scorn. Sanders recently spoke out against the more antagonistic rhetoric and vitriol which at times has infected lower levels of his campaign and grass roots support this primary season, though with an addendum that included all campaigns.

While these factions of his movement are surely not the lion’s share of his support, it is an issue that Sanders should deeply consider as he hopes to spin his political revolution into a whirlwind of delegates that can carry him to the nomination. History has shown us this: Revolutions have a nasty habit of first-generation idealists succumbing to the unbridled vitriol and inflamed passions of the next.

His hope for a movement that lasts beyond this campaign season must take into account the unintended consequences of the often unparsed language used by his surrogates and even Sanders, himself.

As Jesse Jackson took the stage, it further underscored the narrow dichotomy attempting to be navigated: attacking the rich, corporations, various sectors of industry and economic power, while attempting to propel a message of widespread unity. Jackson’s “Nobody Out” speech in Calder Plaza called for justice, equality and various other unifying principles for all and with no one left out. However, that message of unity can sometime seem to end for Sanders and his supporters where feelings of anger, resentment and disenfranchisement begin towards the faceless “rich.” If Sanders hopes to broaden his support, it will likely be necessary to modulate the revolutionary tones of his anti-rich sentiments and forward the same policies under a more tempered approach that embraces the contributions of the rich to our society and future, even if he believes they need to take on a larger share of the burden than they do presently.

“We are going to move this country to public funding of elections so all people can vote.”

March 8, Bernie Sanders in Grand Rapids.

Sanders’ speech highlighted all his familiar issues and had the crowd cheering most of the afternoon. Among those issues were campaign finance reform, a rise in the minimum wage, increasing labor union formation, removing government restrictions on abortion, raising taxes on wealthy Americans, upending the healthcare industry and replacing it with “Medicare for All” and so on.

While many of the issues Sanders discusses are handled with the height of seriousness, not all disagreements were handled in the absence of a little humor. Sanders joked about the hard undertaking he has endured in congress over the course of his career of listening to the conservative republican speeches of his colleagues, which drew chuckles from the candidate and the audience.

The Test

The test will be whether the excitement and enthusiasm among Sanders’ most devoted supporters will generate the necessary turnout to win or if the movement he has worked to build represents as big a portion of the electorate as Sanders and his supporters believe. In short, are Sanders and his policy proposals as popular on the scale necessary to win as his supporters and the candidate believe them to be.

That differential, voter enthusiasm vs. voter plurality, has left similar political movements on the outside looking in: George McGovern & Ron Paul come to mind. While Sanders has seen more success than most could have predicted when he announced his initial run for the nation’s top office in 2015, whether that passion can hand him the presidency is yet to be seen. Sanders’ two rallies in Michigan on Sunday (Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor) netted an impressive 17,000+ ardent attendees, but that number pales in comparison to the over 1.2 million Michiganders that voted in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Sanders won that primary over the eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton, in 2016, and he hopes to do it again on Tuesday, but he will have to lock down several other states with progressive-leaning democrats at their core and likely expand his base if he hopes to gain the nomination.

You can check the status of your registration, find your polling place and even preview your precinct’s ballot using the State of Michigan’s voting tool here: https://mvic.sos.state.mi.us.

Contact jszetela@miheraldtribune.com with any comments/questions regarding this article or to purchase event photos from the rally.

Bernie Sanders to Return to Michigan Ahead of Primary

For Immediate Release via Bernie 2020
March 4, 2020
(Featured Image: Gage Skidmore)

WASHINGTON -Sen. Bernie Sanders will travel to Michigan this weekend to rally supporters in Detroit and Grand Rapids ahead of the March 10 primary. 

Sen. Sanders’ previous trips to the Great Lakes State include joining the picket line in solidarity with striking United Auto Workers (UAW) members in Hamtramck, as well as rallies at Macomb Community College in Warren and Cass Technical High School in Detroit.

Itinerary for both events:

Friday, March 6
7:00 p.m. Bernie 2020 GOTV Detroit Rally with Sen. Bernie Sanders
The TCF Center – Hall C & D, 1 Washington Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226
Doors open at 5:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. Bags are prohibited. Tickets are not required, but an RSVP is encouraged. Entrance is provided on a first come, first served basis. Parking is available at the Washington, Congress, and Roof garages for $15 (credit card only); attendees are encouraged to walk, bike, carpool or take public transportation. 

Sunday, March 8
12:30 p.m. Bernie 2020 GOTV Grand Rapids Rally with Sen. Bernie Sanders

Calder Plaza, 351 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Doors open at 11:00 a.m. This event is free and open to the public. Bags are prohibited. Tickets are not required, but an RSVP is encouraged. Entrance is provided on a first come, first served basis. Parking garages are located off of Ottawa Ave, Monroe Ave, and Pearl Ave. Attendees are encouraged to walk, bike, carpool or take public transportation.